Many pupils today are very familiar with social media tools like Facebook and Twitter, whether they themselves use them or from the many references on television, film or media. It teaching literacy today there is an expectation built into curricular guidelines that pupils should have a familiarity with a wide range of genre, whether in printed form, film or digital. And that includes social media. And it’s recognised by many that the tools with which many pupils are familiar could be harnessed to engage them in their learning. However there are concerns from many areas about how to best prepare pupils for the digital age in which they live, so that pupils are best equipped with the skills so they can stay safe if and when they use social media, while at the same time recognising the legal and societal constraints on schools.
Facebook and Twitter are currently two tools with which many pupils will already be familiar, whether themselves, or familiy members or through references in television, film and media. And many teachers have recognised the potential for pupil engagement in learning across the curriculum when using tools in the style of Facebook and Twitter, while at the same time in many schools they may be unable to have pupils themselves use these specific tools themselves.
What Facebook-like or Twitter-like tools are available for schools?
SMART Notebook Facebook format template
Amber Coggin has produced a SMART Notebook file for use with a SMART Board which is in the form of a Facebook template which can be downloaded and used without an Internet connection. This can be used both to reinforce safety messages about the use of social networking tools, and the SMART Notebook file can be edited so that pupils can create their mock page for a historical character or for a character from a novel study, or for pupils to develop a character they themselves have made up in a piece of their own writing. Click here to access this resources: http://smartboardgoodies.com/2011/02/11/facebook-page-template-notebook/
Fakebook and Twister from Classtools.net
Alternatively from the iLearn Blog http://t.co/nXhLLC3 comes the links to use online fake social media pages Fakebook and Twister created by @russeltarr to teach about the use of Facebook and Twitter. Use them by getting the pupils to create fictional pages for historical characters or create fictional characters in creative writing. While there is then the curricular purpose with a creative tool there is also the opportunity to reinforce the message about safe use of social networking tools.
Fakebook from Classtools.net is a free online tool which lets pupils create a Facebook-like profile for a fictional or historical character. Just by adding the name of the character in history or from a novel the tool will search for and add an appropriate image. Likewise for “friends” of the character these will add images automatically. In this way the tool has been designed specifically for school use and encourages pupils to research details of a character (fictional or historical) to make approriiate choices of event sequencing for the status updates. So if using a historical character from the time of a specific event in history there is considerable reading and research required of a pupil in order to sequence events correctly, to interpret and summarise a sequence of events, to include the viewpoints of other real-life associated historical characters in their posts on the original character’s timeline and make inferences basd on what information may have been available at that time in history to these characters. The familiar format of Facebook, and the automatic addition of appropriate visuals, has been found by teachers to engage pupils in the learning about the historical characters, often demonstrating a much deeper understanding of the information than might be expected. Fakebook profiles for historical or fictional characters can be saved online – a user simply adds a password so only they can edit it (but keep a note somewhere of the direct link to the Fakbook profile you created in order to find it again!). The completed Fakebook profile can also be saved as a PDF file for saving elsewhere as evidence of the learning of the pupil. If you are looking for ideas to get started or to demonstrate for pupils then click here to search for Fakebook profiles created by others.
Twister from Classtools.net is a free online tool which provides a fill-the-blanks format for pupils to enter information about a historical or fictional character. Images will appear automatically so time is not wasted in searching for suitable images. The limited-character nature of status updates of Twitter (and use of hashtags) encourages pupils to summarise factual information appropriate to their character, and the familiarity of such to pupils today has been found by teachers to be a particularly engaging and effective way to teach the skill of summarising. The Twister homepage provides links to a host of examples of the use of the tool to create Tweets as if created by historical or fictional characters – so provide useful starting points for those who may be unfamiliar with the tool or who may be looking for ideas to spark their own imagination for characters related to the historical character under study.
Further tools for teaching about safer use of social networking tools like Facebook while also teaching about historical figures can be found on Richard Byrne’s blogpost here
Powerpoint and Word Templates
Templates using Microsoft Word or Powerpoint have been created by teachers so that pupils can create profiles of fictional or historical characters in the style of Facebook or Twitter. Click here for one example – others are available and doing an online search for “fake Facebook Word or Powerpoint templates” will provide others.
If you are looking for resources about making use of Twitter itself for a class or school account then click here.
If appropriate in your own situation Twitter itself can be used for fictional characters or historical events or characters. This has been used by teachers with a class to send messages (Tweets) in the sequence of time that an event happened in history or in a novel. If Twitter had been available at that time what would the messages have been? Click here to see an example account set up by a S4 pupil retelling the journey of David Balfour in Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel.
If you are looking for resources for supporting digital citizenship and safe use of online tools then click here.